Hard to believe we’re into fall

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

October is getting almost too close to avoid this September being one of the warmest on record for Northwest Pennsylvania. Yet we did have a fall cool-off. Unfortunately, it was a cool-off from the 90s. The temperature did dip into the low 50s one night while sitting in the backyard by the fire ring. That felt nice.

Now we have had almost typical fall rain. That brought temperatures down to a very comfortable level. But not cool enough to feel like fall.

Leaves are starting to turn. But that is brought about by the length of sunlight each day, not by temperature. Still, it seems like the leaves should be farther along.

And then we are right back into warm weather again. Downside, the fall fishing patterns will be disrupted, slowing inland fishing. Upside, the great walleye fishing at Lake Erie should continue for a while, and salmon fishing at Lake Ontario may not progress as usual.

It is all about the wind. Walleye fishing at Lake Erie tends to slow down in September because the lake gets rougher. Although there have been numerous rough days, also some days have seen waves 1 foot and less. This is a great time for those of us who have smaller boats, not too small please, to pack away a few fillets to last until ice fishing begins.

When the lake is not too rough, launch at either North East Marina, Shade’s Beach or the East Street Boat Launch. The same thing is happening in New York out of Barcelona and Dunkirk. Any of these should put you reasonably close to walleye. Lately, walleye have been hitting in water as shallow as 30 feet, even shallower at night.

Walleye tend to suspend in Lake Erie much more than local walleye in the river or the reservoir. So be sure to change lure depth until a pattern is established. Keep a good watch on the sonar screen. If the bigger marks are concentrated in a band, such as 12 feet to 14 feet, concentrate lures at about 12 feet. The 14-foot marks are probably just walleye 12 feet down, but near the outer edge of the sonar cone.

Do not fret if you do not think you are equipped for this kind of fishing. Probably you already have enough gear to get started.

Start looking at lures. The standard trolling lures for Lake Erie walleye are nightcrawler harnesses, lightweight trolling spoons and stick baits. Troll with any of these, and drift-fish with nightcrawler harnesses.

Use an in-line weight, or as I prefer, get a kit of Snap Weights. These can be attached to the line any distance from the lure. Then just unsnap the weight when it is reeled near the rod tip. These are great for both trolling and drift-fishing.

The selection of lure colors should be heavy on greens and blues and include some chartreuse, orange, and red. Shiny color patterns work very well, but also have some bright and glow colors for low-light conditions.

Line depends on whether you are trolling or drift-fishing. Drift fishing can be done with whatever you normally use for walleye fishing in the Allegheny River, Allegheny Reservoir or Chautauqua Lake, probably 6 pound-test or 8 pound-test. For trolling, though, the heavier line should be used, at least 12 pound-test and as heavy as 20 pound-test.

After a Snap Weight kit, the next priority for new gear would be a pair of medium-size Dipsy Divers. These will get your lures down past 50 feet. You do not have to go out very far to get into 60 feet of water out of North East Marina. Dipsy Divers are outstanding deep water fishing tools. They tend to wander through the water which adds to the attractiveness of lures.

Dipsy Divers might make it necessary to buy a couple of new rods and reels. I suggest starting with a pair of Okuma line counter reels. Spool these with braided line. This will make releasing the divers much easier. Add about 10 feet of monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders to the braided line.

It takes a fairly stiff rod to handle divers. For this purpose and other trolling rods, I suggest you look at Ugly Stik rods. They are reasonably priced, have pleasing action, do not take a set and they are very durable. Or ask at one of the tackle shops near Lake Erie.